The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

McCain’s Law of Feminism and the Memoir of Phyllis Chesler

Posted on | August 3, 2018 | Comments Off on McCain’s Law of Feminism and the Memoir of Phyllis Chesler

One thing I’ve said is that are three kinds of feminism:

  1. Feminism that is wrong;
  2. Feminism that is crazy;
  3. Feminism that is both wrong and crazy.

This is McCain’s Law of Feminism. Unlike some other conservatives, e.g., Christina Hoff Sommers, I cede nothing to feminism in terms of its claims to have made “progress” possible for women. All claims of “progress” — beyond the greater freedom and leisure made possible by the accumulation of wealth — remind me of the words of Edmund Burke:

We know that we have made no discoveries, and we think that no discoveries are to be made in morality, nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grave has heaped its mold upon our presumption and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity.

The myth of moral “progress,” which Burke perceived as the motivating sentiment of the French Revolution, is dangerous and destructive. While we cannot deny that technological progress and the accompanying explosion of wealth in industrial societies has made life easier for the vast majority of people, it is a mistake to believe that being richer than our ancestors means that we are morally superior to our ancestors. Nor do I believe that having more education, in terms of mere numbers of years in school, makes people better. The terrorist Ted Kaczynski was a Harvard alumnus, and it is not true that academics are morally superior:

Walter Lee Williams, whose works include Overcoming Heterosexism and Homophobia, was “an eminent professor of gender and sexuality studies” at the University of Southern California before he pleaded guilty in federal court to traveling the world to pursue sex with boys as young as 9. Columbia University political science Professor David Epstein copped a plea bargain for having incest with his daughter. Rutgers University Professor Anna Stubblefield was convicted of sexually molesting a mentally disabled man. Lehigh University Professor Yujie Ding was convicted of federal fraud charges, and Florida State University Professor James Doran was convicted of embezzlement. One could make a long list of university faculty — Professor Alyssa Azotea (psychology, Simmons College), Professor Michael Dean Stroup (economics, Stephen F. Austin State University), Professor James Francis Quinn (criminology, University of North Texas), Professor Douglas Paul Dohrman (health science, Texas A&M University), Professor Christopher DeZutter(chemistry, University of Minnesota-Rochester), Professor Noel Campbell (business, University of Central Arkansas), Professor Kevin Sullivan (public health, Emory University), Professor Amol Kharabe(business, Ohio University), Professor J. Martin Favor (African American studies, Dartmouth College), to name just a few recent cases — arrested on child pornography charges. The FBI says self-described “boy lover” Professor James Cavalcoli used the Internet in his attempt to meet a minor for sex. And, of course, there was University of Georgia Professor Max Reinhart, who was charged with prostitution for peddling himself online as a transvestite named “Sasha.”

More money and more education are not proof of “progress,” in a moral sense, nor should we believe that “democracy” (however one conceives that vague term) guarantees “progress.” A belief in the myth of “progress” tends to blind us to the possibility of decadence. We have made remarkable technological progress — I’m typing this on a laptop computer and you’re reading it on the Internet, something that did not even exist when I graduated college in 1983 — but what are most people actually doing with all these gadgets? Binge-watching sitcoms? Posting selfies on Instagram? Trying to get laid on Tinder? But I digress . . .

Phyllis Chesler is an author I’ve known for many years. A notable Second Wave feminist, she became alarmed after 9/11 about the pro-Muslim/anti-Israel sentiments expressed by many of her movement comrades. When I was at The Washington Times, I interviewed her about her 2005 book, The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom, which explored these themes.

Ms. Chesler has produced a new memoir of her decades as a feminist, A Politically Incorrect Feminist: Creating a Movement with Bitches, Lunatics, Dykes, Prodigies, Warriors, and Wonder Women, and has published her first excerpt of this book at Tablet:

It’s impossible to convey how excited I was — how excited we all were. While at work at the Brain Research Labs, I somehow heard about a women’s meeting. I rushed out, still wearing my white lab coat. I was on the streets searching for “the women,” as if a group of aliens had suddenly landed on Earth.
We were all lost in a dream — but we had never been so awake. Women who were once invisible to each other were now the only visible creatures. Women — who used to see one another as wicked stepsisters — had magically transformed into fairy godmothers.
Some of us smoked and drank, wore motorcycle boots, tough leather jackets, and no makeup; we were rather butch, whether we were straight or not. Suddenly we were the ones who made things happen, not those to whom things happened.
Some of us wore feathers, jewelry, soft suede vests, bell bottoms, and lots of makeup. We looked like gypsies or glamorous pirates, and we too made stuff happen. You didn’t mess with us anymore. . . .

The heady excitement of modern feminism in its 1960s infancy was destined to disappointment. Quite frankly, the movement was a magnet for kooks and weirdos and ego-tripping megalomaniacs. It was largely a New York-based movement, and was allied with the radical New Left, which would soon devolve into the Weather Underground terrorist cult. The late 1960s were a time of psychedelic drug freak-outs, “free love” and every other species of dangerous craziness, so it is unfair to say that feminists had a monopoly on lunatic ideas, but theirs was a special kind of crazy, as Ms. Chesler laments:

For example, we proclaimed that “sisterhood is powerful” — it’s such a lovely idea — but such a sisterhood did not normally exist; it had to be created day by day. Women did not always treat each other kindly. Somehow we expected feminists, who are also women, to behave in radically different ways. We were shocked as we learned, one by one, that feminists didn’t even always treat each other with respect or compassion.
I know this now. I did not know it in 1967. . . .
Like most women, feminists engaged in smear and ostracism campaigns against any woman with whom they disagreed, whom they envied, or who was different in some way. Unlike men, most women were not psychologically prepared for such intense and overt battles and experienced them personally, not politically — and sometimes as near-death experiences. . . .
If only we had understood more about the dark side of female psychology, we might have been able to find ways to resist our own mean-girl treachery.
If only.
Only now, a half century later, do I understand that women in groups tend to demand uniformity, conformity, shoulder-to-shoulder nonhierarchical sisterhood — one in which no one is more rewarded than anyone else. Marxism and female psychology are a natural fit psychologically, but not for me. . . .

You can and should read the whole thing. As much as I’d like to share my opinions about why the feminist “sisterhood” proved to be so toxic, I don’t want to be accused of mansplaining, so I’ll remain silent.



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